Safety tips for outdoor winter fun

-- Metro Creative ServicesDecember 13, 2012 

Winter is a special time of year for sportsmen. The great outdoors beckons men and women in the wintertime, when skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, and sledding are just a few of the many cold weather activities to entice athletes out of their homes.

Though winter sports can help fend off cabin fever, those who don't exercise certain safety precautions might find themselves dealing with another kind of fever. Cold weather can leave men, women and children susceptible to illness or injury if they aren't careful. The following are a few safety tips for winter sportsmen who want to make the most of the coming winter sports season.

Clothing

Inadequate clothing is one of the easiest ways a winter sportsmen can fall victim to illness or injury. But the right clothing can go a long way toward ensuring this winter sports season is fun and illness- and injury-free.

Wear protective head gear. Protective headgear can help sportsmen avoid colds and head injuries. When venturing outdoors in the winter, always wear a protective wool ski cap. Most body heat is lost through the head, but wool caps help your body retain warmth on cold days and nights. In addition, sportsmen should always wear protective headgear when skiing, sledding, snowboarding or playing ice hockey. Even the most experienced sportsmen can suffer a head injury when playing a winter sport, but the appropriate headgear can prevent head injuries to veteran and novice athletes alike.

Dress in layers. Dressing in layers is another way to stay warm and prevent illness in the winter months. Kids are especially susceptible to cold weather, so parents should dress them in one more layer than they dress themselves. When wearing scarves, sportsmen should tuck their scarves in so they don't get tangled with sporting equipment.

Remove drawstrings from kids' clothing. Drawstrings on winter hats, overcoats and pants can prove harmful to children. These drawstrings can easily get tangled and lead to strangulation. Parents should remove all drawstrings from kids' winter clothing before kids participate in winter sports.

Ice skating & hockey

Winter is a great time to go ice skating or play some hockey. However, ice sports like skating and hockey can be especially dangerous, and it's wise for adults and children to be as cautious as possible when getting in some ice time.

Beware of thin ice. Ice that forms on moving waters, including rivers and creeks, is never safe enough to skate on. Such waters should always be avoided no matter how thick the ice may appear. When going ice skating or playing hockey outdoors, only do so on waters that are supervised and have been tested and approved for skating.

Skate with the crowd and never skate alone. Skating alone might give you all the room in the world to perform a figure eight, but skating alone leaves you with no backup should the ice break and you fall in or if you injure yourself in a fall. When skating, never skate against the crowd.

Skiing and snowboarding

Skiing and snowboarding are immensely popular in the winter, but that popularity should not overshadow how dangerous these activities can be.

Get instruction. Ski resorts typically require guests with no previous skiing or snowboarding experience to get lessons before they can take to the slopes. These lessons are a must for novice skiers and snowboarders and even those athletes with no recent experience on the slopes.

Be especially cautious when entering or exiting the ski lift. Ski lifts pose a significant injury risk, so skiers and snowboarders should always be attentive when entering or exiting the lift.

Don't allow young children to snowboard. Many of today's youngsters prefer snowboarding to skiing. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children seven years of age and younger should not snowboard.

Don't be in a hurry. Skiing or snowboarding too fast increases the chance you will lose control and cause injury to yourself or others. Go at a slower, more relaxed pace and take in all of the beautiful scenery along the way.

Sledding

Sledding is a great way to have some fun in the winter snow. But even though sledding is often seen as a carefree activity, it can be risky as well.

Never sled near traffic. Sledding near traffic is a definite no-no, as it risks the lives of sledders and motorists alike. Always make sure you sled in an insulated area far away from roadways.

Sled feet-first or sitting up. Sledding feet-first or sitting up greatly reduces a sledder's risk of suffering a head or neck injury. Never sled while lying down head first.

Never sled on ice. Sledding on ice can cause injuries and make it difficult to control a sled. When sledding, only do so on packed snow.

Do not allow a sled to be pulled by a vehicle. Being pulled by a vehicle while on a sled might seem like fun, but it's nearly impossible for oncoming traffic to see a sledder behind a vehicle, and it's very easy for the sled to fishtail into oncoming traffic.

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